Members of Parliament (MPs) have paid a glowing tribute to Ghana’s youngest ever and longest-serving enigmatic President, Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings.
The late president fondly referred to as ‘Papa Jay’, who governed the country for 19 long years as a military ruler and a democrat, died on November 12, 2020 at the Korle-Bu Teaching hospital after a short ailment.
Ghana, the MPs said, is an oasis of peace in a troubled West African Sub-region today and its democracy continues to chalk successes because of the late president.
According to them, Ghana has been made the beacon of hope for constitutional rule on the African continent because of the foundation former President Rawlings built.
The House observed that the credit for this rare length of political peace and stability with concomitant economic growth goes to the extensive and all-inclusive consultations Mr Rawlings fostered as a leader.
The members, in unison, admitted President Rawlings commanded rapt attention from both those who liked him as well as those who disliked him.
Minority leader Haruna Iddrisu who read a statement in remembrance of the former President stated that Papa Jay, as he was affectionately called, was a paradox, an enigma of an institution.
J.J., he said, is an enduring institution with values that will continue to define Ghanaians as a people and guide the progress of the country.
“His commitment to the values and principles of justice, equity, probity, accountability, and transparency is unparalleled and these are values and principles that find expression in the Preamble to our Constitution, the 1992 Constitution, which was promulgated under his able leadership.
“The 1992 Constitution remains the most enduring constitution since the birth of Ghana, surviving almost three decades and seeing through the transition of power from one political party to another on three separate occasions”, the Minority leader added.
He sent condolences to the late President’s widow, children, the family, and the great party he founded, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
In his tribute, Majority leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu described the late former President as the pillar of the Fourth Republic.
The death of Mr. Rawlings, he said, struck Parliament and the entire nation because such an incident was never anticipated at the time.
He argued there can never be any successful account of the political history of the country, particularly the Fourth Republic without recognizing the man Jerry Rawlings for what he stood for, his actions and inactions.
According to the Majority leader, Rawlings never lost sight of the events of the past that tendered to resurrect memories of some painful occurrences in the minds of some people.
“His charisma was endlessly felt by many, at both national and international level and his ability to command a crowd and move people is indeed overwhelming and his charm won him the admiration of both the young and old”, the Majority Leader stated.
He expressed his profound condolences to close and extended family, the NDC, and the entire nation for the loss of such an unsung hero.
Islamic Education Unit
Minority Chief Whip Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka in his contribution expressed the gratitude of the Muslim community to Chairman Rawlings for introducing the Islamic Education Unit to promote education in the Zongos.
According to him, this singular policy intervention of Mr. Rawlings, has transformed the Muslim community so much that they are today proudly participating in the development of the country.
He noted that before the advent of this Unit, Muslim parents were reluctant to send their children to school for fear of them being indoctrinated because many of these schools were then mission schools.
“He also supported the Muslim Community to establish the Office of the National Chief Imam as a rallying point for all issues that affected Muslims in the country,” Mr Muntaka added.
Rawlings, he said, should not only be eulogised but to add and strengthen some of the things he believed in and established so that Ghanaians of all faith would continue to co-exist peacefully.
Joe Ghartey’s observations
In his contribution, MP for Essikado-Ketan and former Attorney General, Joe Ghartey, stated that Rawlings ruled Ghana like a colossus regardless of whether one liked him or not.
His relevance in Ghana and Ghanaian politics, Mr Joe Ghartey said, could not be denied even after he left office as the President of the republic.
“We remember that the whole country waited and hoped at the appropriate time he would make comments on national issues and make statements that came to be known as ‘Boom statements’.
“And whether you liked it or not, President Rawlings was relevant in our lives,” he added.
He averred that Rawlings’ entry and exit from the Ghanaian political scene teach that the Ghanaian people should not be enemies despite their differences.
Ghanaians, he said, should not be enemies because of the political parties they belong to and cited the relationship between Mr. Rawlings and President Akufo-Addo as an example to be emulated.
MP for Damongo, Samuel Abdulai Jinapor, in his tribute noted that even in his lifetime, President Rawlings was a difficult personality to dissect much more when he is now deceased.
He noted that the role Papa Jay played in the evolution of Ghana’s democracy can never be taken away from him.
According to him, in 1992 the Ghanaian people bestowed upon themselves this democracy but argued the contribution of Chairman Rawlings transiting as a Military leader to a democratically-elected leader and superintending the transition of the country from a military rule to the most enduring republic is a huge credit to him.
Mr. Jinapor pointed out that at the time Mr. Rawlings achieved this feat, democracy was not fashionable and military rule was the order of the day.
“As much as some may legitimately disagree with his politics and policies, in my respectful view, this singular achievement of Rawlings is very much the major legacy of his leadership,” he said.
Kofi Adams, MP for Buem and a former Aide to President Rawlings, in his comments, indicated that the famous words of the Chairman ‘Leave my men alone’ while being court marshalled in 1979 after the failed military coup did not end there but stayed with him till death.
Mr. Rawlings, he said, put people way above himself and sometimes at the peril of his own safety and life, which included offering lift to people on the Tema Motorway only to ensure they get to their destinations safely.
“I have listened to the tributes, and one thing that saddens me and I pray it never happened to any leader of this country is what we visited on our late former President.
“The withdrawal of his courtesies and being denied VIP pass. He had to travel as an ordinary person carrying his own luggage at the Kotoka Airport.
“But he was never angry and took advantage of the attempt to humiliate him to build good walls. The stones that were thrown at him he used them for a solid foundation,” he added.
Member for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa described the former late leader as a toast of the international community because they saw in him a consummate democrat and a leader who had transformed from military rule to a democratic order.
Rawlings, he said, remained committed to the democratic order he championed as against happenings in the rest of Africa where some leaders were scrambling to return to power after their exit.
According to him, the former President came in at the right time and urged Ghanaians to remember his good works and the legacy he left behind.
Speaker Bagbin’s eulogy
The Speaker of Parliament, Alban S.K. Bagbin who concluded the tributes endorsed everything that has been said about the former leader and noted that President Rawlings was a creation of the society he lived in and an embodiment of his time.
Rawlings, he said, lived for uniting people and uniting Ghanaian goals. Working towards stabilizing the country and developing Ghana, at the peril of his life, his wife, and children.
“Rawlings lived and died for Ghana and introduced the politics of Members of Parliament touring their constituents instead of the constituents going to the MP,” he said.
According to him, President Rawlings is a kind that is very rare in the world and is adored and loved outside Ghana than in Ghana.
Ghanaians, he said, should be very proud they benefited from the fountain of wisdom that flowed from Chairman Rawlings and his wisdom.
The Speaker argued if Ghanaians had followed through with his Vision 2020, the country would have been a much better place than it is today.
Former President Rawlings died on 12 November 2020 at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, a week after having been admitted for a “short term illness.”
His final burial rites have been scheduled to come off from January 24 to 27.
Mr. Rawlings will be laid in state from January 24 to 26 at the Foyer of the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC) from 9 am to 5 pm daily.
There will also be a funeral mass on January 26, from 9 am to 11 am at the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Accra.
A burial service will be held on January 27, from 9 am to 11 am at the Independence Square.